Cabbing machines are used in the jewelry making process to produce cabochons, those smooth dome-shaped semi-precious gemstones that seem to hold an ancient mystical quality all of their own. They’re used in all types of jewelry from earrings, to necklaces, bracelets, and rings, etc. and are often referred to as cabs.
Though you can, of course, buy pre-made cabs. You can’t buy the joy and satisfaction of producing your own unique hand-made cab and the best part is that anyone can learn the craft.
With just a little practice you can custom make your own beautiful cabochons from pre-cut slabs for cabbing, ready to fit any easily obtainable fine-quality cabochon setting of your choice.
Cabbing machines are, it has to be said, quite pricey when you compare them, for example, to machines you might use for other crafts, but I suspect that’s because lapidary is a more highly specialized niche and as such, a craft that hasn’t so far been flooded with cheaper and not so well-made Chinese imports.
All of the cabbers in this guide are well-made, high-quality machines, made here in the US.
So whether you are a professional jewelry maker or a lapidary hobbyist in the making, we’ll now take a look at the very best machines out there.
Our Top Picks for the Best Cabbing Machine
|Best Cabbing Machine for Lapidary Hobbyist to Pro Lapidarist||CabKing 6″ Cabbing Machine|
|Best Cabbing Machine for Beginners to Hobbyist||Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ All-U-Need|
|Best Alternative Pick for Beginners to Hobbyist||Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ Slant Cabber|
Click below to jump to each topic in this guide.
- Best Cabbing Machine for Lapidary Hobbyist to Pro Lapidarist
- Best Cabbing Machine for Beginners to Hobbyist
- Best Alternative Pick for Beginners to Hobbyist
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Materials and Accessories
Best Cabbing Machine for Lapidary Hobbyist to Pro Lapidarist: CabKing 6″ Cabbing Machine
Best Cabbing Machine for Lapidary Hobbyist to Pro Lapidarist
The CabKing more than lives up to its regal sounding name. We should warn you it’s not cheap, but it’s practically a complete workstation in itself and even comes an accessory kit so it has everything you need to complete the grinding to polishing process from rough pre-cut slabs to handcrafted beautifully polished cabochons.
It’s designed for all skill levels from beginners to pro-Lapidarist jewelry makers and it’s suitable for everyone simply because it requires no special skill to use it.
On the left shaft of the CabKing are two electroplated diamond grinding wheels (one coarse and one finer grit), plus one coarse electroplated diamond resin wheel.
On the right are three electroplated diamond resin wheels to take you through the polishing process and there’s one canvas polishing pad and one full-face diamond lap. Just so you know (because you can’t see them in the photo above), these are flat discs for use on the end of the right shaft.
The cabbing unit has an adjustable water system provided by an included 30-watt water pump. You will just need to add two buckets, one with clean water for the pump and one to collect the dirty water expelled by the unit’s simple drainage system.
The cabbing machine is backed up by a strong 1/4 horsepower direct-drive motor. That means there are no belts or pulleys to maintain, and it will give you a steady 1800rpm.
The kit comes complete with a diamond paste syringe containing a strong concentrate of high-quality diamonds suspended in a waterbased carrier to give the cab the ultimate high gloss finish.
You also get removable stone trays, extra wheel spacers, hand rests, splash guards, safety goggles, a waterproof apron, a handy booklet on How to Use Diamond Abrasives to Cut Gemstones, and a conveniently placed, built-in LED lamp so you can clearly see what you’re doing.
This is a wonderful machine for making your own high-quality handmade cabochons that are suitable for all kinds of jewelry pieces. It will also polish glass, synthetic materials, and metals too.
What We Like:
- Complete Kit with Water Pump and Accessories | You basically just need just a couple of cheap plastic buckets and some beautiful 1/8″-1/4″ pre-cut rock slabs for cabbing and you’re set up and ready to go.
- US Company Backed up With a One-Year Warranty | It’s easy to buy additional tools to fit this US assembled machine. You can buy an extra diamond resin wheel or grinding wheel, for example, if you want to choose a different grit size.
- Very User-Friendly | Everything is set up for you. You don’t have to swap out the grinding or polishing disks to use this machine as you will with the cheaper models we’ll be looking at next.
Buying Factors to Consider:
The 6″ CabKing is well worth the initial investment for the quality of the machine you are getting especially considering the fact that you get all the extras including a 30-watt water pump. We’ve chosen the 6″ diameter wheel version because the step up in price to the 8″ cabbing machine is pretty steep. If you have big hands or specifically want to work with larger stones, you may feel it’s worth paying that much extra for to get wider wheels and more generous spacing but otherwise, this size is better value for money.
However, if you aren’t ready to invest in King of cabbing machines just yet, we have a much more affordable one for you to look at next.
Check the latest price of the CabKing 6″ Cabbing Machine on Amazon.
Best Cabbing Machine for Beginners to Hobbyist: Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ All-U-Need
Best Cabbing Machine for Beginners to Hobbyist
This is a much more affordable cabbing machine for those not ready to go all out and invest in a pro model just yet. Yet it’s still more than capable of producing beautiful high-quality cabochons for all kinds of jewelry making.
This cabber works a little differently from our first pick in that this one is a flat lap machine. With this type of machine, you’ll be working from above. The motor rotates flat discs specifically designed to grind, smooth and polish rocks, minerals and more.
You can make free-form shapes, create flats or make stunning cabochons for any type of jewelry you want. It’s suitable for a wide variety of natural gemstones including quartz, agate, jasper, tourmaline, corundum, opal and more. It’s even suitable for synthetic gemstones, enamels, and metals.
The All-U-Need cabbing machine is a high powered, 1/4 horsepower, machine that’s easy to operate. There’s just one simple dial that lets you choose which speed you want to work at and it runs anywhere between 800rpm and 3,400rpm. We should add, this flexibility in speed is a useful feature and one that, notably, the CabKing doesn’t have.
Everything you need is included in the kit to get you started straight out of the box. You get four different electroplated diamond discs ranging from a coarse to a smooth grit and one polishing pad. You also get a 2-gram syringe of diamond paste, a polishing compound for that glass-like finish.
The clean water system is easy to use and you get one clean and one dirty water cup included.
What We Like:
- Affordable Price | It’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the CabKing featured above making it more realistically priced for a hobbyist.
- Adjustable Speed | You can choose how fast you would like the machine to work. The speed is adjustable (via a simple dial) from 800rpm to 3,400rpm.
Buying Factors to Consider:
The only slight drawback of this machine that when you need to change your grit size you will need to manually swap the electroplated diamond discs. But considering the price difference between this one and our first choice, it’s not that much of a downside.
Lastly, you might want to consider how you want to work. With this machine, you will be most likely be standing and working from above.
For some people, that may be uncomfortable and some may even prefer to work sitting down just because it’s easier to hold the dop stick with a steady hand.
If so, you should skip this option and go for our alt pick next.
Check the latest price of the Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ All-U-Need on Amazon.
Best Alternative Pick for Beginners to Hobbyist: Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ Slant Cabber
Best Alternative Pick for Beginners to Hobbyist
In all other respects, this machine is the same as our last choice above. You get the same features and the same high-quality, so there’s basically no downside to choosing the slant version of this cabbing machine.
Both machines are just as popular but without this variation, if you prefer to work sitting down you would have to rig up a very low work table or else opt for the considerably more expensive CabKing above.
What We Like:
- Slant Design | It’s such a simple design variation but it will give you a more comfortable experience if, for whatever reason, you prefer to sit while you work.
Check the latest price of the Hi-Tech Diamond 6″ Slant Cabber on Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a cabochon stone?
Cabochons, often referred to as cabs, are highly polished, smooth, unfaceted dome-shaped stones with a flat back. They are usually cut from a 1/8 to 1/4 ” slab of raw gemstone or other suitable material. A shape, most commonly spherical or oval, is traced onto the slab and the slab is then trimmed with a lapidary trim saw. The rough shape is then ground, sanded and polished using a cabbing machine.
Cabs are often made using semi-precious gemstones including quartz, agate, jasper, turquoise, onyx, and more. Gemstones, being generally opaque in appearance with natural patterning and color variation, particularly lend themselves to this technique. But cabochons can also be made using precious stones, synthetic stones, glass, wood and more.
What is a cabochon used for?
Cabochons are most often used in jewelry making. They are especially suitable for making rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, and necklaces, even hair clips, etc., though they can be used in craft decoration such as custom made keyrings, picture frame decoration, sewing projects and more.
In jewelry-making, they are commonly set in a blank or hand made cab setting but can be caged or wire wrapped to achieve a unique artisan effect.
How long does it take to make a cabochon?
There is no exact answer to this question. The time taken will depend very much on the hardness of the material (the Mohs hardness scale is a good reference point). Other factors such as the equipment you use and the speed at which you work will affect the time taken.
If you are working from a precut slab of gemstone or other suitable material, you will need to trace your desired shape and then cut and trim as close to the edge as you can. Harder rocks and minerals will obviously take longer than softer ones.
You should then allow up to an hour to complete your cabochon using your cabbing machine.
Though cabochon making may look complicated, it is easy to master with a little practice and it’s a surprisingly less time-consuming craft than many other crafts or hobbies you could take up.
What shapes can cabochons come in?
Cabochons come in a wide range of shapes, the most common ones being oval or round but they can also be shaped into squares, hexagons, marquises, hearts, and more.
For a beginner, the easiest shape to work with is an oval as it’s more forgiving on the eye to mistakes.
Materials and Accessories
These are the products that you may also need to go with your cabbing machine:
This lapidary dop station is perfect for melting dop wax.
- Built-in dop stick, wax and tool storage.
- Wide ledge for pre-heating stones which will give you better adhesion to the dop stick.
- Simple on-off switch with light indicator.
Green Dop Wax for Cabochons
Dop wax used with a dop stick to secure the trimmed gemstone slab ready for cab making.
- Made from the finest beeswax.
- Round disk prevents crumbling.
A really simple and cheap design must-have for marking out your cab shapes.
- Great selection of simple circles and ovals.
- Cheap and perfect for the job.
A Beginner’s Guide
If you want to be a lapidary expert this little beginner’s guide is a great place to start.
- Covers all the basics from tumbling, cutting, face polishing cabochon making and more.
- Includes seven projects to make yourself.
Lapidary Trim Saw
Made by US company Hi-Tech, this trim saw is perfect for trimming lapidary slabs for cabbing.
- Comes with one 4″ and one 5″ blade for different sized slabs.
- Suitable for cutting rocks, minerals, or glass.
- 1/4 hp, heavy-duty, ball-bearing motor
Make sure you always choose good quality cab settings for your cabochons. A cheap-looking setting will spoil your beautiful cab. You will need a bezel roller to set your cab into this bezel setting.
- 925 Sterling Silver.
- Simple elegant bezel cup design.
- 4 pcs set.
This is a nice example of the types of cabochon settings available.
- Thai sterling silver.
- Adjustable 12mm blank.